Another Surprising finish, another USA Champio
The Womens 100 Freestyle was anticipated to be a big event, but the final roster exceeded expectations, with 7 of the 8 women in the event holding Olympic Gold Medals, and the one without, Mallory Comerford, making her debut at her first World’s, took the American Record down - leading off the 400m Free Relay on Night 1 and is already a 3 time champion in Budapest at the Fina World Championships. This is the fastest Womens 100 Freestyle heat in history and promised for a big show.
Rounding out the field includes Emma McKeon with more silver medals than any other athlete at World’s plus was the anchor to the World Record Setting Australian 400m Free relay. Also in the field was Penny Oleksiak holding the Gold Medal in this event from Rio with her Co-champion Simone Manuel. Bronte Campbell, the defending champion of this event from Kazan 2015 was in the mix as well as Pernille Blume - Rio 2016 Gold Medalist in the 50m Free who came in with a PB from the semis, dropping the Danish National Record below 53 seconds. The London 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist in this event, Ranomi Kromowidjojo was out in Lane 1 as well, but it was Sarah Sjostrom coming in as the heavy favorite heading into the final. Sjostrom came in not only with the top seed but also having just set the new 100m Free World Record leading off Sweden’s 400m Free relay on night 1. Sjostrom came in with her eyes on taking down her own World Record of 51.71.
Sjostrom had a great start being the first off the blocks in Lane 4 but it was Kromowidjojo, the out in Lane 1 that broke out in the lead with a great underwater leg, staying under for a lengthy 5.10 seconds - the longest of the field. However, Sjostrom quickly made up the deficit within the next 10 seconds of the race to take the lead with her powerful, even stroke. Throughout this, Manuel hugged the lane line trying to take any benefit she could off the wake of the leading Sjostrom heading into the turn.
Sjostrom turned at the 50 with a commanding lead half a body length ahead of the field, clocking 8 hundredths under world record pace and over 3 tenths ahead of Blume in second place. Sjostrom looked good off the turn, but Manuel had a great underwater phase, staying under longer than the rest of the field at 3.61 seconds. While Blume turned in second, both Manuel and Kromowidjojo broke out ahead of her - showing how important underwaters are even in these sprint events.
Sjostrom seemingly had the gold in her hand by the 75 - but a lot can happen in that final 25. Past the 75, Sjostrom looked to be tightening up with her DPS dropping significantly and stroke rate slowing taking her stroke index (DPS x Speed - higher the better) down from one of the best in the field at 4.55 down to almost the lowest in the field at 3.78. This was happening while Manuel surged and maintained a strong stroke index of 4.16 and maintained the lowest stroke increase in the field only adding 2 strokes more in her second leg compared to the rest of the field generally adding at least 5. Then in a very 2008-Lezak/Bernard-style moment, Manuel took advantage of the opportunity presented by the fading Swede to gain critical ground in the last 25 meters.
The pair were neck-and-neck in the final stretch home and Manuel put her head down and drove for the wall in the last 10 meters to narrowly out touch the Sjostrom for one of the biggest upsets of the competition. Sjostrom took a breath 3 strokes into the wall and actually raised her head a bit early before hitting the wall which could have been the 4 one-hundredths difference between silver and gold in this 100m freestyle final.
Blume had a great swim over in Lane 6, and while not quite in it fighting for the Gold, was able to get her hand to the wall for the Bronze ahead of the rest of the field only separated by a few 10ths and take down the Denmark National Record at the same time. These top 3 finishers all posted times that would have taken Gold in Rio last summer.
From this race, we see the importance of maintaining an efficient stroke and holding more even splits as well as how critical it is to put your head down to drive through those last 10 metres and hammer the wall before coming up for air - we have seen how this can change the outcome of tight races over the years.
Use this link to return to our Fina World Championships home page to see what other races we have analyzed from this event.
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Learn from what goes into these world class swims!